Blackberry Gin and TonicBlackberry Gin and TonicBlackberry Gin and Tonic

It’s around 6 o’clock when we begin to get things in order for dinner. As Eric lights the charcoal for the grill, I head into the kitchen to mix drinks. From time to time, we’ll pop open a bottle of wine, but more often than not, it’s gin and tonics.  I take pride in my g+t-making skills, which were picked up by watching Eric during our first years together. I realized early on in our relationship that if I was going to last in this family, I’d have to learn to prepare one properly.  I grab a lime, cut it in half, squeeze the juice into each glass, making sure to get as much of the pulp in that I can. The used wedges are reserved for the end (Eric likes to eat the rind… it’s something I’ve come to accept).  The next step: add the gin. Sometimes it’s measured out in a jigger, but to speed up the process I’ll often just eyeball it. A few handfuls of ice cubes and then topped off with tonic and we’re good to go!

Earlier this summer, I was chatting with Vijay (of Nosh On It) and Brandon (of Kitchen Konfidence) and we came up with the idea to do a series on our favorite cocktails.  We’re calling it “What I Drink,” where, from time to time, we’ll post our favorite drink recipes. Sometimes these will be classics, but we may also give them a little twist. Be sure to check out Vijay’s 1794 and Brandon’s Old Fashioned posts.

Seeing that gin and tonics are what we drink during the summer, I immediately knew that’s what I’d be making. As I explained above, the recipe for a g+t isn’t all that complicated, so I’ve spruced things up here by making a blackberry shrub that replaces the lime juice in the drink

But before you scroll down for the recipe, here’s a little Q+A to give you all a bit more info about why I love gin and tonics and what the heck a shrub is. Hope you enjoy! Cheers.

Blackberry Gin and Tonic

What flavor profile best fits your cocktail? Sweet, fresh, bitter or savory?
What’s great about shrubs is that they’re a combination of sweet (from the sugar and fruit) and tangy (from the vinegar), making for a balanced cocktail.
Why is this drink your favorite?
Well, the gin and tonic is certainly my favorite summer drink and I pretty much only consume it from June through August. It’s a simple drink to prepare and it’s very refreshing.
Do you enjoy variations, or do you just stick to the original recipe?
Often I stick to the original recipe (gin, lime juice, tonic), though, in this case, I played around a bit. I’ve also been known to add a splash of Aperol or bitters to my gin and tonic.
When making cocktails, what’s the best advice you’ve ever received (or read)?
I’m not sure there’s one piece of advice that sticks out. It’s more like a combination of tips and tricks I’ve picked up from watching bartenders. I’ve learned to taste my drink as I add ingredients to see if it needs more sweetness or citrus or something to smooth it out. One bartender told me that you should add the alcohol at the end… or at least the most expensive liquor… because that way if you screw up the drink, you don’t lose the pricier ingredient. Sometimes I’ll follow that rule, but it doesn’t always make sense.
What’s the worst alcoholic beverage you’ve tasted?  Please describe the experience.
When we go out, we tend to hit up places that we know will mix up a well-crafted cocktail. However, there have been a few times when we try out a new place and we’re terribly disappointed by the results. I don’t expect much from a dive bar, but nicer establishments should be able to produce a balanced drink. There have been a couple of occasions when we’re served a drink that’s flat for some reason… it’s missing some acidity or sweetness or, in the worst of circumstances, any discernible booze.

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  • What I Drink: Old Fashioned CocktailAugust 28, 2014 - 9:16 am

    […] Here’s Brian’s Blackberry Gin and Tonic. […]ReplyCancel

  • Averie @ Averie CooksAugust 28, 2014 - 10:18 am

    Brian this is just a gorgeous drink! Clicked over from Brandon’s site to find this beauty. I want it for breakfast :) Pinned!ReplyCancel

  • Giovanna @ Love, Thyme and HoneyAugust 28, 2014 - 10:39 am

    That’s for sure a nice variation to the usual Gin & Tonic. Where else could I use the shrub? It sounds like a syrupy liquid!?ReplyCancel

  • ElizabethAugust 28, 2014 - 11:42 am

    I love these! Ever since I had a blackberry rambler at Sweet Ups in Brooklyn waaay back in the day, I’ve been hooked on blackberry cocktails and I love your restrained, shrubby g&t! Totally going to make a few these over the long weekend.

    I also love the interview! It’s nice to get a glimpse into your day-to-day and the things you look for in a good, or bad, drink. Cheers!ReplyCancel

  • Cookin CanuckAugust 28, 2014 - 12:03 pm

    Now that’s my kind of g&t! Gorgeous colors with one of my favorite summertime fruits. But…Eric eats the lime rind? I’m still processing that. :)ReplyCancel

  • MonetAugust 29, 2014 - 12:17 am

    Shrubs need to start happening around here. It sounds like my kind of drink addition! This is a beautiful drink, Brian. No doubt delicious too ;-)ReplyCancel

  • […] blackberry gin and tonic. yes yes […]ReplyCancel

  • saraAugust 30, 2014 - 11:52 am

    I so love this! Looks amazing. :)ReplyCancel

  • KateAugust 30, 2014 - 6:36 pm

    I used to hate on tonic water, but I recently found some quality tonic and it makes all the difference! Your blackberry shrub version sounds killer.ReplyCancel

  • Francesca CatanusoAugust 31, 2014 - 11:30 am

    G+T’s are my absolutely favorite. I like mixing them with edleflower sparkling water… do you guys have the around? ReplyCancel

  • DeniseSeptember 3, 2014 - 12:23 pm

    G+T is definitely a summer drink around here, and we have found with our European travels this summer they are BIG over there as well. What I love about your recipe, and the ones we have had in Europe is going outside of the comfort zone with flavors and gins. Digging this shrub as you use balsamic with it. Have been playing with shrubs this summer, and this is the first. The depth must be outstanding!ReplyCancel

  • Erin PereiraSeptember 3, 2014 - 7:58 pm

    How long does the shrub last in the fridge?ReplyCancel

  • AdriSeptember 10, 2014 - 10:34 am

    I am so pleased that shrubs have made a comeback. I remember them from years ago. They add such depth of flavor and your Blackberry Shrub breathes new life into the classic Gin and Tonic. I have really enjoyed these cocktail posts from you and your two blogging pals. Bravi!ReplyCancel

  • JulieOctober 3, 2014 - 12:00 am

    Delicious!ReplyCancel

  • […] Gin & Tonic, com amoras! Receita aqui. […]ReplyCancel

  • What I Drink - The Cider Mill CocktailDecember 18, 2014 - 8:01 am

    […] almost didn’t happen. Vijay, Brandon and I had talked a few weeks ago about doing another What I Drink post, since we had such a blast with the first one. We’re a few guys who not only love food, […]ReplyCancel

  • What I Drink: Apple & Quince SparklerDecember 18, 2014 - 8:01 am

    […] our go-to cocktails, including an Old Fashioned (made with Vanilla Sugar), a 1794 Cocktail, and a Blackberry Gin and Tonic.  Today, we’re sharing a number of alcoholic beverages perfect for a New Year’s Eve […]ReplyCancel

Honey Glazed Grilled Salmon and Carrot Slaw with Miso-Ginger DressingHoney Glazed Grilled Salmon and Carrot Slaw with Miso-Ginger DressingHoney Glazed Grilled Salmon and Carrot Slaw with Miso-Ginger DressingHoney Glazed Grilled Salmon and Carrot Slaw with Miso-Ginger Dressing

Growing up, my father, like most dads, was the grill master.  He will still find any excuse to cook outside… nothing will deter him. A little rain? Put on a jacket and get an umbrella! Eric’s the same way and has been known to uncover the grill in the middle of winter. I certainly have an appreciation for the art of grilling and realize how exhilarating it is to cook over an open flame. But I let these guys enjoy their moment. They know what they’re doing and they seem to take great pride in their talents, so why take that away from them? I’ll stand back and let them do their thing.  Of course, my mother and I are the ones who season the food before it hits the grate… but I’ll let that little detail slide.

I learned something recently that blew my mind, and yet it makes perfect sense. If one uses a marinade to baste meat or fish, then that liquid must first be cooked before it can be applied. I will often marinate whatever we’re cooking, but seeing that I’m rarely in charge of grilling, I didn’t pay attention to the process after the fish left the kitchen. It wasn’t until I started to develop this recipe that I found out that marinade that’s been used on raw fish or meat shouldn’t be used to baste the protein, unless it’s been heated prior to this point.

Now that we’re half way through the work week, I suggest you get your weekend grill plans in order. We’ll be using it quite a bit over ourselves, including next week when we spend a little time on the Cape.

Honey Glazed Grilled Salmon and Carrot Slaw with Miso-Ginger Dressing

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  • MonetAugust 13, 2014 - 12:12 am

    I’m sad to say we don’t own a grill. I still rely on my dad and his skills! I’ll often ask him to grill me some chicken or fish when he has time…and like a sweet dad, he does and brings me over dinner! This grilled salmon looks amazing, Brian. Will be sending him the recipe ;-)ReplyCancel

  • MegAugust 13, 2014 - 2:49 am

    Delicious! We had grilled salmon tonight with braised carrots. Love this combo!ReplyCancel

  • NaomiAugust 13, 2014 - 8:11 am

    Hmm, good point. Logical. I never thought if that! Love that flamed pic.ReplyCancel

  • Laura (Blogging Over Thyme)August 13, 2014 - 8:35 am

    So beautiful! I love dishes like this, I feel like I also would be a year-round grill person if I had access to outdoor space (sigh). These are my favorite type of meals!ReplyCancel

  • Alida RyderAugust 13, 2014 - 8:43 am

    This looks fantastic! Love that coal shot!ReplyCancel

  • TieghanAugust 13, 2014 - 8:58 am

    This look so perfect!! And gorgeous photos!ReplyCancel

  • Aimee @ Simple BitesAugust 13, 2014 - 11:04 am

    Wow, gorgeous, smokey photos, Brian! We just nabbed a Webber with a chimney starter (isn’t that what you’re using?) and I can’t wait to try this recipe.ReplyCancel

  • Brenda @ a farmgirl's dabblesAugust 15, 2014 - 9:49 am

    Beautiful BEAUTIFUL post and recipe!ReplyCancel

  • Copper River SalmonAugust 15, 2014 - 3:25 pm

    Looks delicious! And what beautiful photographs of the salmon!ReplyCancel

  • JoanneAugust 17, 2014 - 9:59 am

    I hope this will do well with a good roast in the oven as well, because that’s how I’ll be making it! Love the sound of that glaze.ReplyCancel

  • FrancescaAugust 20, 2014 - 2:41 am

    I feel like all men turn into grill masters once they become dads, no? At least mine did – mom says he was terrible at all kitchen things before he had to feed a family (and wanted some peace!)

    This salmon looks delicious.ReplyCancel

  • ElAugust 25, 2014 - 10:09 pm

    Gorgeous meal! I just started grilling this year and love it. Can’t wait to try your recipe!ReplyCancel

  • Crushing On - Chez UsAugust 29, 2014 - 3:16 am

    […] This salmon […]ReplyCancel

  • alison @ Ingredients Inc.September 8, 2014 - 8:01 am

    making this tonight! Your site looks amazing!!ReplyCancel

Shrimp + Sweet Corn Ceviche

Shrimp + Sweet Corn CevicheShrimp + Sweet Corn CevicheShrimp + Sweet Corn CevicheShrimp + Sweet Corn CevicheShrimp + Sweet Corn CevicheShrimp + Sweet Corn Ceviche

Sunday night, Eric and I stumbled across a party in our neighborhood.  Well, the truth is that the reason we ended up there was because we were complaining about the music. We had been trying to relax and had pulled out some lounge chairs in our backyard. The weather was perfect; warm, but not humid. The dog was sleeping next to us, exhausted after a jam-packed weekend.

“I’m going to take Maki for a walk and see where that’s coming from.”

“Really?”

“Yeah, I just want to see and maybe tell them to turn it down a bit.”

I laughed, knowing how ridiculous it was that the youngest homeowners on the street (and quite possibly in the three blocks surrounding us), the ones who were supposed it be hip and cool, were actually two crotchety guys who moan about the kids blasting their music too loudly.

Ten minutes later, Eric returned. It turned out the music was actually a live band (a band, I should add, that specializes in covering the songs of Jimmy Buffet, though they make it clear in their marketing materials that they do other genres) and that the woman whose party it was was very nice and had them turn down the volume. Oh, and if we wanted we were welcome to come over and join them.  Not being ones to turn down an invitation to a party, we headed off.

“This is so random.” I said as we approached their driveway. We knew no one and the only interaction we’d had with them was Eric’s brief confrontation.

The next thing we knew, three hours had gone by. A couple glasses of wine consumed. New friends made. We got to hear lots of gossip (and who isn’t a sucker for that) and felt even more connected to the neighborhood that we just moved into four months ago.

Of course, none of this has to do with ceviche. I’m not even going to try to bridge these two. All I can tell you is that it wasn’t as scary as I thought it’d be to make. In fact, it was really simple and so refreshing on these brutal summer days we’ve been having. There may have been some margaritas consumed as well… or gin and tonics. Definitely one of those.

Shrimp + Sweet Corn Ceviche

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CORDOVA, ALASKA (PHOTOGRAPHS BY BRIAN SAMUELS - A THOUGHT FOR FOOD)

I hemmed and hawed: do I write something or should I let the images speak for themselves? As a photographer, you hope that your pictures are strong enough to tell the whole story. When shooting a restaurant, it’s possible to do this. A five day trip to Alaska, however, is more challenging. While I want to give these images some context, to provide a play by play of the week’s events would result in an epic entry.  So, I’ll try to keep things concise.

Cordova is located 160 miles southeast of Anchorage. It is only accessible by plane or boat, which, surprisingly, doesn’t seem to effect tourism as much as one would expect. The population, I was told, is approximately 6,000. That number, however, decreases significantly, to 2,500, during the winter months.  Salmon fishing is their main industry, with an estimated 480 drift gillnet permits participating this summer. In addition, there are local and state organizations developed to assist the fisheries and preserve the area’s natural resources, such as the Copper River Watershed Project, which “works to foster the health of the Copper River watershed’s salmon-based communities, economies and cultures.” In addition, there’s the Department of Fishing and Gaming, which “manages approximately 750 active fisheries” and “foster[s] the highest standards of scientific integrity and promote innovative sustainable fish and wildlife management programs to optimize public uses and economic benefits.” You will also see some images of a fish and game sonar station, located near Child’s Glacier and the Million Dollar Bridge (also featured in the post), where, over the course of the season, three researchers each work eight hour shifts to track the salmon and other wildlife that pass through the river.

There are five different species of wild Alaskan salmon: King (aka Chinook), which is red in color and high in omega-3s, Sockeye, pictured below at the salmon filleting demo, Coho (aka Silver), which are a bright orange-red color, and Chum and Pink, both of which are less oily and not as flavorful (making them the least profitable).

Walking down the streets of Cordova, you’ll see folks waving at each other.  Towards the end of my time there, this happened on quite a few occasions. I’d be in town and would see someone I’d met the day before. Big hellos and hugs. Friendly. Welcoming. I’d never thought that Cordova, being as remote as it is, would be a place I’d feel connected to. But that’s exactly how I felt: like a part of a community. And it’s one that I hope to return to in the future.

NELSON BAY - CORDOVA, ALASKA (PHOTOGRAPHS BY BRIAN SAMUELS - A THOUGHT FOR FOOD)NELSON BAY - CORDOVA, ALASKA (PHOTOGRAPHS BY BRIAN SAMUELS - A THOUGHT FOR FOOD)MILLION DOLLAR BRIDGE - CORDOVA, ALASKA (PHOTOGRAPHS BY BRIAN SAMUELS - A THOUGHT FOR FOOD)CORDOVA, ALASKA (PHOTOGRAPHS BY BRIAN SAMUELS - A THOUGHT FOR FOOD)CHILDCHILDFISH AND GAME SONAR STATION - CORDOVA, ALASKA (PHOTOGRAPHS BY BRIAN SAMUELS - A THOUGHT FOR FOOD)FISH AND GAME SONAR STATION - CORDOVA, ALASKA (PHOTOGRAPHS BY BRIAN SAMUELS - A THOUGHT FOR FOOD)FISH AND GAME SONAR STATION - CORDOVA, ALASKA (PHOTOGRAPHS BY BRIAN SAMUELS - A THOUGHT FOR FOOD)THE DOCKS - CORDOVA, ALASKA (PHOTOGRAPHS BY BRIAN SAMUELS - A THOUGHT FOR FOOD)View full post »

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  • TieghanJuly 30, 2014 - 12:25 am

    So many gorgeous pictures. What a beautiful place! And the salmon, wow!! Looks just amazing. Thanks so much for sharing!ReplyCancel

  • MegJuly 30, 2014 - 2:34 am

    Lovely! I have never been to Cordova but have heard only wonderful things. Living in Alaska is wild and I love it. Beautiful photos!ReplyCancel

  • MeredithJuly 30, 2014 - 10:56 am

    I’m in love with the smokiness and jewled tones of your photography — you captured everything beautifully! Just gorgeous! Glad we finally had time to talk in Alaska. It was an awesome trip and I think someone needs to come up with the recipes for the salmon roe and the chia seed cookies!ReplyCancel

  • KaseyJuly 30, 2014 - 12:29 pm

    Stunning photos, Brian! I am dying to go to Alaska.ReplyCancel

  • KateJuly 30, 2014 - 3:49 pm

    Brian, thank you for sharing your experience! I caught a glimpse of some breathtaking scenes on instagram. I’d love to go to Alaska someday and enjoy some super fresh, wild salmon.ReplyCancel

  • Beautiful photos – love how you captured the essence of your trip! Alaska is on my list of places to visit one of these days.ReplyCancel

  • Laine WelchJuly 30, 2014 - 6:17 pm

    Thanks for the stunning images of Cordova and its outstanding salmon fishery. It’s a model for all of Alaska!

    So glad you made the trip to the Great Land and are sharing your story.

    Laine Welch
    KodiakReplyCancel

  • hughJuly 30, 2014 - 6:38 pm

    The images are beautiful, Bryan. Takes me back :)ReplyCancel

  • Sylvie | Gourmande in the KitchenJuly 30, 2014 - 8:01 pm

    Such magnificent landscapes, it looks like a beautiful place to visit.ReplyCancel

  • Aimee @ Simple BitesJuly 30, 2014 - 8:31 pm

    Just wow. These are incredible captures, Brian. Thanks for sharing. Loved returning to Alaska through your eyes. xoReplyCancel

  • Helene ReedJuly 30, 2014 - 8:31 pm

    Love avocados and salmon together with a little balsamic vinegar and dill. The pictures are great and it sounds as though you had a great adventure Brian. ReplyCancel

  • Carolyn KetchumJuly 31, 2014 - 7:19 am

    Wow, Brian, the trip looks amazing and your photos ARE enough to tell the story!ReplyCancel

  • KristenJuly 31, 2014 - 7:51 am

    I have been anxiously awaiting these photos and wow…you did not disappoint!ReplyCancel

  • sara forteJuly 31, 2014 - 4:13 pm

    these are so beautiful! I mean, I knew you were a great photographer, but the images and the mood in all of them is so spot on. So glad we were able to enjoy this beautiful place with you. I hope to find myself there again someday.ReplyCancel

  • Renee ReiserJuly 31, 2014 - 8:13 pm

    Brian – The pictures are magnificent and they whey my appetite to go to Alaska sooner then later. I also think that your mother should use one of the pictures to paint. I know I would love to do it in her class.ReplyCancel

  • kitaJuly 31, 2014 - 8:29 pm

    Every single image… still and breathtaking. You could have done without the words, but I am very glad that you shared your thoughts too.ReplyCancel

  • The Cordova TimesJuly 31, 2014 - 9:50 pm

    Brian, we sure enjoyed having you (and Meredith, Sarah, Hugh, Lari, Lori, Brooks and Heidi) here and would be delighted for you to return. Your photos are gorgeous and it’s great to see this amazing place that we all love through your eyes. Thanks so very much! ReplyCancel

  • JoanneAugust 5, 2014 - 7:26 am

    I can feel from these photos and your words what an amazing experience this was!!ReplyCancel

Marinated Feta + Garlic Scape Pesto

Some trips are just trips. You go, you sightsee and you eat at a few local joints. Then there are the ones that leave a lasting mark. I knew early on that my time in Alaska would be special. It was on our second night in Cordova that we had the pleasure of being fed a home-cooked meal by the wife of a local fisherman (a meal, I must add, that included the best chowder I’ve ever consumed). While our host wined and dined us, we had a chance to talk to a roomful of locals, all of whom were both curious about who we were and who were also eager to answer any of our questions (and we had lots of them).  It was as if we were being welcomed into a friend’s house and, by the end of our time in Cordova, I did feel like I had made friends. A rare occurrence on any trip, let alone one organized by a marketing company. You’ll get a lot more information (and photos) in a post I hope to share next week. But, for now, I’m just trying to digest the experience.

Garlic Scape Pesto

Marinated Feta + Garlic Scape Pesto

Marinated Feta + Garlic Scape Pesto

Marinated Feta + Garlic Scape Pesto

Marinated Feta + Garlic Scape Pesto

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Craft 260 (Fairfield, CT) - Photography by Brian Samuels - A Thought For FoodCraft 260 (Fairfield, CT) - Photography by Brian Samuels - A Thought For FoodCraft 260 - Photography by Brian Samuels - A Thought For FoodBurger with Crispy Pork Belly at Craft 260 (Fairfield, CT) - Photography by Brian Samuels - A Thought For FoodMargherita Flatbread at Craft 260 (Fairfield, CT) - Photography by Brian Samuels - A Thought For FoodWhole Roasted Fish and Brussels Sprouts at Craft 260 (Fairfield, CT) - Photography by Brian Samuels - A Thought For FoodView full post »

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  • TieghanJuly 14, 2014 - 8:49 am

    What a cool place and that pizza looks awesome! Thanks for sharing!ReplyCancel

  • NaomiJuly 14, 2014 - 11:43 am

    I love the casual feel of this place-you captured it perfectly.ReplyCancel

  • MonetJuly 14, 2014 - 11:43 pm

    Oh I love these shots Brian. From the tile floors to the beautiful light fixtures to the sweet family. Adore. Thank you for sharing with us.ReplyCancel

  • Jeanette's Healthy LivingJuly 15, 2014 - 2:21 pm

    I’ve got to make my way up to this place – looks fabulous!ReplyCancel